Albertsons announced Monday it will close two more Clark County grocery stores, leaving just two remaining locations to face the increased competition from deep-discount supermarkets.
• Previously: Albertsons closed its Hazel Dell store in 2006 and its Fisher’s Landing-area store in 2008.
• What’s new: Albertsons announced plans to close two stores, at 5000 E. Fourth Plain Blvd. and at 8300 N.E. 137th Ave.
• What’s next: The company expects to close the two stores on Feb. 20. A spokesman said there are no plans to close the company’s two remaining Clark County stores.
Shutting down for good on Feb. 20 are the Albertsons store at East Fourth Plain Boulevard and Stapleton Road and the Padden Parkway location, according to a spokesman for the Boise-based company. The economy's downturn over the last few years and the local expansion of discount grocery stores, such as Wal-Mart and others, made it hard for the two closing stores to remain competitive.
"The stores identified have not been profitable for quite some time, and despite the best efforts of the company and our associates, we have not been able to reposition them to better compete in the marketplace," said Dennis McCoy, communications and public affairs manager for Albertsons' Pacific Northwest territory.
A staff of 55 people is employed at the Fourth Plain Albertsons store and 77 employees report to the Padden Parkway store, McCoy said.
Five investment firms, including Cerberus Capital Management, purchased the Albertsons chain in March from SuperValu Inc. Albertsons, which hasn't opened a new Clark County store since 2003, closed its Hazel Dell store in late 2006 and its Fisher's Landing store in 2008.
Experts are not surprised by news of two more planned closures, especially the store on Fourth Plain Boulevard, an area where household incomes are among the county's lowest and Albertsons' higher grocery price points face competition from a new grocery-only Wal-Mart store. The Bentonville, Ark.-based discounter opened a new Walmart Neighborhood Market store in July at 7809 N.E. Vancouver Plaza Drive, about a mile east of the Fourth Plain Albertsons.
A second Walmart Neighborhood Market store is under construction and set to open this spring at Fourth Plain and Grand boulevards, about a mile west of Albertsons.
"In an area where the incomes are modest, people are not filling their baskets at Albertsons," said Deborah Ewing, a commercial real estate broker specializing in the retail sector.
"It could have been Wal-Mart's arrival" that forced plans to shutter the Albertsons store, said Ewing, a broker with Vancouver-based Eric Fuller and Associates Inc.
Other grocers competing for business in the area include Boise-based no-frills grocer WinCo Foods, an employee-owned company that also offers deeply discounted prices.
"I would imagine Albertsons just found it increasingly difficult to compete," said Pam Lindloff, an associate vice president with NAI Norris Beggs & Simpson in Vancouver.
She wonders whether Albertsons' remaining stores in the Salmon Creek area and in Battle Ground will survive Wal-Mart's local expansion. In addition to the two grocery-only stores, the company is preparing to open a new Battle Ground Supercenter with groceries this spring.
"I would basically say the Battle Ground store is on a watch list for a potential store closure," Lindloff said.
The Battle Ground store has competed for more than a decade for market share with other traditional grocers Fred Meyer and Safeway. All three grocers received a new round of competition in 2010 when WinCo Foods opened its Bowyer's Marketplace store at the corner of Northeast 119th Street and 117th Avenue (also state Highway 503).
Both Lindloff and Ewing think the Salmon Creek Albertsons store has the highest chance for survival.
"I think it's fairly well-positioned," Lindloff said, adding that the store could face closure if and when Wal-Mart opens a Supercenter it has long planned for the Salmon Creek area.
"If the Salmon Creek Wal-Mart gets built and there are groceries, that could be a problem," Lindloff said.
She explained that today's consumers are far more interested in value than shoppers were before the recession, when customers were willing to pay a bit more for services that they considered priority.
"Everybody's looking for value," Lindolff said, "They're looking for the most value they can achieve, and groceries are no different."